In this week’s newsletter, I discuss legislation I am carrying to limit the withholding of college transcripts, and I also share information on upcoming special elections across the Commonwealth. We’ve also participated in numerous community engagements this past week, and I provide some highlights here. Finally, I extend best wishes to everyone who is celebrating Hanukkah. Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter and for staying informed.
During the 2022 legislative session, I served as chief Senate patron for legislation (SB159) to prohibit Virginia’s public colleges and universities from withholding student transcripts for unpaid direct-to-college debt; Delegate Betsy Carr carried a similar bill for the House of Delegates. My bill passed the Floor of the Senate with bipartisan support, but was not successful in the House. Although these two bills did not pass the House Education Committee, language requiring a report on student debt collection practices and policies was included in the state budget, and this report was recently issued.
The report shows that the students in the Commonwealth who are the most impacted by transcript withholding are over 25 and Pell-eligible. Other states are also beginning to address the issue of transcript withholding. Thirteen states have legislation that is either pending or passed into law that limits the practices of transcript withholding to some degree or another.
Last week in an interview with Virginia Public Media (VPM), I discussed how my legislation for the 2023 session will continue to tackle the issue of transcript withholding by requiring public colleges and universities to release official transcripts for those individuals who are applying to another institution, seeking employment or financial aid, or attempting to serve in the armed forces or National Guard. This legislation also gives institutions the opportunity to create a payment plan structure for the student to repay the debt.
Transcript withholding is an issue that impacts education and economic opportunities. Students who are able to complete education programs or who are able to gain employment are in much better positions to repay debt owed to institutions. I look forward to continuing our work with colleagues, constituents, and stakeholders as we address this concern.
Upcoming Special Elections
In the coming weeks, special elections will be held throughout the Commonwealth to fill legislative vacancies in House of Delegates District 35, State Senate District 7, and the United States House of Representatives District 4. With the recent, sad passing of Delegate Ronnie Campbell (District 24), we will soon learn the date for the special election for that seat as well. Elections to fill vacancies are determined by the Governor, often in consultation with either the Speaker of the House or the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. On Tuesday, January 10, special elections will be held in SD-07 and HD-35.
To fill the vacancy left by Jen Kiggans, Democrats in SD-07 have selected former Virginia Beach City Councilman Aaron Rouse as the party’s nominee. This past weekend, I traveled to Virginia Beach for a canvass launch and several special events for Aaron’s campaign. His passion for the district and his connections to the community are self-evident. Aaron is focused on supporting our teachers, expanding jobs training programs, protecting abortion access, and lowering healthcare costs. For HD-35, Democratic voters in the district selected Holly Seibold. This seat (HD-35) came open with Delegate Mark Keam’s transition into the Biden-Harris Administration.
Polling locations in SD-07 and HD-35 will be open from 6:00am until 7:00pm on Election Day. Voters in these two districts can check their registration status prior to the January 10 elections, confirm their polling locations, or request a mail-in ballot by visiting the Virginia Department of Elections website.
In addition to these special elections in Senate and House districts, the Governor announced that the VA-04 Special Election to fill late Congressman Donald McEachin’s seat will be held on February 21, 2023. Because each party has to certify its nominee at least 60 days prior to the election, both parties have a very brief window of time to complete the nomination process, especially given the fact that we are quickly approaching the holiday season.
Each party will soon select its nominee, and each party has determined its own nomination process. The Republican party’s nomination process will be held December 17 at Life Christian Academy.
The Firehouse Primary for Democrats will be held next Tuesday, December 20. Democratic voters registered in the VA-04 District have multiple polling locations available to cast their ballots:
Voters participating in the Democratic nomination process will need to bring one acceptable form of identification, similar to what is required to vote in state-run elections.
My endorsement for the upcoming special election for Congress:
I am delighted to endorse Senator Jennifer McClellan for Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District. Senator McClellan has proven herself repeatedly over the past two decades as a fearless champion for reproductive rights, public education, social justice, the environment, housing, and so many issues that affect all Virginians. Senator McClellan is the unmistakable heir to the legacy of Congressman Donald McEachin. She will continue and build on the work of our Congressman, and she will make her own mark in the United States Congress. As a skilled, serious, and thoughtful legislator, Senator McClellan is fully prepared, from the first day, to join Virginia’s Congressional Delegation, to make history, and to chart a path of progress for the Commonwealth and the country.
On Thursday, my legislative assistant joined the Virginia Farm Bureau to hear details about the Bureau’s legislative priorities for the upcoming General Assembly. Agriculture is among Virginia’s top three industries and is absolutely vital to our Commonwealth. Supporting the work of family farms is of significant importance to me and the localities that I serve.
On Friday morning, I attended the Chesterfield Legislative Breakfast, jointly hosted by the Board of Supervisors and the School Board. Chesterfield’s efforts in county planning, economic development, and support for its public schools have been exemplary, especially as we forecast next steps over this decade.
On Saturday, my Chief of Staff served as an observer as residents of the Forestbrooke Apartments and members of Virginia Organizing and Virginia Poverty Law Center demonstrated for tenants rights in Downtown Richmond. Tenants throughout the Richmond area have been subject to unhealthy living conditions and rising rents. I look forward to advocating for tenants’ rights this session as we tackle the crisis of safe and affordable housing.
I had a wonderful Saturday evening at the Chesterfield County Democratic Committee’s annual Snowflake Soiree. I thank the tireless committee members who have truly transformed Chesterfield for the better. I look forward to working alongside all the amazing candidates who will be seeking election to represent Chesterfield County.
On Sunday, I joined Democratic leaders from across the state at the canvass launch for Aaron Rouse’s bid for the 7th Senatorial District. Volunteers enthusiastically knocked doors and spread the word about this crucial election that will help Democrats safeguard reproductive rights, fight for workers’ rights, and protect marginalized communities throughout the Commonwealth.
On Monday morning, I attended the dedication ceremony for the new Midlothian Fire Station No. 5. This new station is located at the corner of Midlothian Turnpike and Charter Colony Parkway and will help ensure the safety of the growing community in Midlothian. Firefighters and EMS providers at this station will serve more than 29,000 residents.
At a joint session of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors and School Board on Monday evening, I joined members of the Chesterfield delegation to hear the priorities of Chesterfield County Public Schools. Addressing the crisis of the teacher shortage, the need to fully fund our public education, including lifting the cap on support staff, and the goals of high quality Pre-K education were all essential topics of our discussion.
The Virginia Asian Chamber of Commerce plays an integral role in promoting Asian businesses and contributing to the Virginia workforce and economy. On Tuesday, I was honored to attend the Chamber’s annual gala and meet the innovative and dedicated business leaders who enrich our Commonwealth.
On Wednesday morning, I visited the Virginia Public Media (VPM) headquarters to learn more about its educational programming and its collaborative partnership with the Department of Education to support public education in Virginia. I also had the opportunity to tour the television and radio broadcast centers. Local reporters such as Ian Stewart (pictured above) provide crucial insights about the issues and concerns that impact each of us in Virginia.
On Wednesday evening, I participated in a panel discussion on LGBTQ+ rights hosted by the ACLU of Virginia, Equality Virginia, and He She Ze & We. The discussion spotlighted legislation that seeks to harm or to make invisible our LGBTQ+ youth. Across the country and here in the Commonwealth, these harmful policy efforts have a negative impact on the mental and emotional wellbeing of children. This important conversation helped advocates to prepare for the 2023 legislative session.
This Sunday, residents across the district and across the Commonwealth will begin observing Hanukkah. During the Festival of Lights, we are reminded that all light—hope, truth, justice, and joy—will drive out darkness. My office wishes everyone celebrating a meaningful holiday. Hanukkah Sameach!
Connecting With My Office
My staff continue to hold meetings with constituents via Zoom or by phone. You can sign up for a meeting with either of my staff members with our easy scheduling app: